For 84-year-old Rosita Orjuella, the London InterCommunity Health Centre has been a blessing.
“I get to see a doctor, make friends and do activities,” said the grandmother who immigrated from Colombia 10 years ago.
She’s not alone.
Since it first opened in 1989, the centre has helped thousands of Londoners not only with medical and social problems, but also with housing, language and other needs.
The centre’s clients range from recent newcomers to Canada, to low-income residents and even the homeless in the east London community.
This week, the centre marked its 20th anniversary with a fall-themed festival held at McMahen Park, which featured a chili dinner, kids’ activities and live music.
Staff, volunteers, clients and community partners came to celebrate the growth and accomplishments of the centre.
“I don’t think many of these people would get access to health care without this place,” said Shelina Kassam, the health centre board president.
Many centre clients don’t know how to access the health and social resources they need, and face economic and social barriers, Kassam said.
“We want to make this a more caring and inclusive community for all and I believe the centre is a practical way to do that,” Kassam said.
The centre’s two locations, at 659 Dundas St. E. and 1355 Huron St. offer care by a team of family doctors, nurses, social workers, dietitians, mental health nurses, psychologists and community workers.
The centre also supports programs that address lifestyle factors affecting health. That includes diabetes self-management programs and anonymous HIV testing clinics.
Richard Cook, a four-year centre volunteer, says he’s seen firsthand the opportunities and resources built over the years.
“The centre has opened up a lot of doors,” he said. “We have helped the community find its strengths and find its voice to make a difference in people’s lives.”
Cook says his involvement with the centre has been personally fulfilling.
“I have gotten to know people from India, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and all over, and I can truly call them my friends,” he said.